We don’t really think of authors in their previous lives, but as most writers will know the struggle to become successful is a real one. Because of this most authors did other work to top up their income before they became well known, and many of these jobs are far from normal!
Maybe it’s telling to an author’s imagination that many of them did jobs that were less than ordinary before hitting the big time. Here are some of our favourite authors and the bizarre jobs they did before they became famous.
Charles Dickens – Ghost Buster
No we’re not pulling your leg, before Charles Dickens was a famous author he was a card-carrying, bona fide Ghost Buster! The Victorian Ghost Club was a real society that would investigate paranormal phenomena. He also labelled jars in a show polish factory for a short while, which doesn’t sound nearly so much fun.
Jack London – Oyster Pirate
We’re not making these up, honest! Before he was a well known author, Jack London belonged to a group of oyster pirates who stole oysters from private farms that had been considered private land. It’s a bit of a moral grey area, but he was only 15 when he played the role of the fishy Robin Hood.
Chuck Palahniuk – Hospice Worker
Chuck Palahniuk did many jobs before settling down to a writing career, but his final paid role before his writing career took off was as a hospice worker, caring for end of life patients.
Roald Dahl – Sexy Spy
Ok so I added the sexy bit, but he was quite dashing! During WWII he was busy drawing Americans into the War, based in Washington D.C but it’s said he was quite the ladies man during his time there!
Ken Kesey – CIA Volunteer
We’re not sure whether it was his time as a volunteer for a C.I.A study or his time as a janitor in a mental hospital inspired One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but that’s what Ken Kesey could be found doing before he became famous.
J. D. Salinger – Cruise Ship Entertainer
When you read Catcher you may not automatically think of putting Salinger in the title of entertainment’s officer, but he was the Luxury Cruise Activities Director on the MS Kungsholm for a while! It was during this time that he wrote a short story called Slight Rebellion Off Madison, which would eventually become Catcher in the Rye.
Mark Twain – Steamboat Pilot
It seems quite fitting actually that in 1859 Samuel Clemens became a licensed steamboat pilot and found regular employment plying the shoals and channels of the Mississippi River, the very job in fact that would give him the name, Mark Twain.
George Orwell – Indian Imperial Police Officer
Many think of Orwell as being anti-establishment so the news that he enlisted in the Indian Imperial Police at 19 years old may come as a surprise. Those familiar with the author will know he also went off to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
Vladimir Nabokov – Butterfly Hunter
This may be my favourite entry of all, when Nabokov wasn’t writing he studied butterflies, he even has an entire genre of the little beasties (Nabokovia) named after him. It was this fact that inspired this entire story!